Conference has barely begun and Tory MPs and right-leaning think tanks and pundits are already kicking off about Theresa May’s announcements on tuition fees and Help to Buy.
Kate Andrews of the Institute of Economic Affairs:
“The Prime Minister is right to address the plights of young people leading up to Conservative Party Conference, but pledging over £10billion worth of uncosted policies will only burden them more down the road, as they face an increasing national debt and – inevitably – higher taxes. While May plans to temporarily put a bit more cash back in the pockets of young graduates, the party must acknowledge that the current university funding system – and lack of competition within it – needs a complete overhaul if student debt is to be tackled. Propping up the Help to Buy scheme only distorts the housing market more, which is already in a perpetual state of crisis. If May is serious about getting young people on the housing ladder, the answer is clear: liberalise the housing market and build more homes.”
Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute:
“Reviving Help to Buy is like throwing petrol onto a bonfire. The property market is totally dysfunctional because supply is so tightly constrained by planning rules, and adding more demand without improving the supply of houses is just going to raise house prices and make homes more unaffordable for people who don’t qualify for the Help to Buy subsidy… Reviving Help to Buy is an astonishingly ill-judged move that may prove economically and politically disastrous for the government.”
The view from ConHome and Unherd:
Deeply irresponsible if true
— Tim Montgomerie ن (@montie) September 30, 2017
MPs Guido has spoken to are wondering why May has chosen to engage on Corbyn’s territory with policies that are just Labour-lite. Colleagues are asking why there are no ambitious announcements on house-building and student debt rather than this damp squib. Not to mention the £12 billion of unfunded spending. A lot of work to do on policy over the next few days…
UPDATE: The government’s side of the story articulated well by James Cleverly:
If it were mathematically possible to have mass university participation + zero fees + maintenance grants it would have been done already 2
— James Cleverly (@JamesCleverly) October 1, 2017
Their claim that everyone can have everything they want and someone else will pay for it is deeply dishonest 4
— James Cleverly (@JamesCleverly) October 1, 2017
After California voted to legalise cannabis, several MPs are backing the Adam Smith Institute’s new report calling for the same. It is a terrible tragedy that people get criminal records and go to jail for smoking something less harmful than alcohol…
Sam Bowman, the Executive Director, said making criminals of otherwise law-abiding people “makes an ass of the law” and the only sensible approach is to legalise and regulate a product used regularly by millions of Britons. The ASI report: The Tide Effect says the tax revenue could add £1 billion to the Treasury pot and the £50m a year it costs dealing with cannabis offenders could be slashed. Worrying that the ASI is seeking new things for the government to tax…
Guido’s friends at the Adam Smith Institute are re-branding as neo-liberals. Many decades ago when Guido briefly interned at the ASI they self-defined as “libertarian“, nowadays that is apparently too radical a term, or so argues executive director Sam Bowman. He argues “libertarian” in Britain has a rigid meaning – “someone who is opposed to all but the tiniest night watchman state in every case”. The dictionary says libertarians uphold the principles of individual liberty, especially of thought and action.
Embracing neo-liberalism as your ideological descriptor might be good marketing, given it is so widely used pejoratively by teenage lefties to save them having to think matters through. They view neo-liberalism as akin to the political economy of Satanism. Bowman rightly points out that the words Tory, suffragette and Whig all began as insults but were adopted and appropriated by the people they were used against. The ASI setting themselves up as the defenders of neo-liberalism will guarantee plenty of attention.
However, something else is also going on here, Sam has for years been pushing wonky technocratic solutions like “negative income taxes“, a form of redistribution of which most libertarians are wary. He’s keen on printing money too and it comes as no surprise that he also backed the UK remaining in the EU. None of which is very libertarian…
The Adam Smith Institute’s Sam Bowman backs Remain because the EU restricts democracy:
“I like and respect many Leavers, but I’ve never shared their enthusiasm for democracy – I want liberty and prosperity, and I don’t want to trade that in just to give my stupid next-door neighbours more power over my life. To the extent that the EU does restrict democracy it is often for the best”